Friday, June 14, 2013

that moment

When can you say the moment your life ended and a new, different, somewhat worse one began?

Sure, life has its ups and downs, challenges and hardships. But there are moments when it just stops being what it was and becomes harder. More complicated. And you can't see back to the one you had, you'll never get that one back again. You'll wonder why you ever complained about it. Because the new one, see, the new look at what's ahead, and you see lots of anger. Sadness. Fear. Heartache so crushing it's hard to breathe.

For me, that moment was in a recent 3 am phone call about my youngest son. No, he is not dead or injured. But since that moment, my life has been toppled and tossed like a sightless gerbil in an exercise ball, banging into furniture, crashing into walls.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Bebop farewell

My dad died on April 5 of this year. We knew it was coming--he had Alzheimer's, and toward the end he seemed to decline pretty quickly. His small family (my mother, my sister and her...roommate--for lack of a better word--her daughter, and my two boys) gathered in a small room at the funeral home. A few rows of chairs were set up but weren't needed. I was impressed to see tissue boxes built into the walls. 

There was no service, no family friends...just a rather hurried goodbye before he was sent to be cremated.

My family tends to look for the dark humor in tragedy, so instead of excessive weeping, we told jokes and stories. Dad was lying on a table, covered by a white sheet. Only his head was visible; he looked a little waxy, but really not bad at all. I was afraid this image of his head would continue to haunt me and follow me around like a floating bowl of Cream of Wheat, but so far that hasn't happened. 

He still had great hair for a man his age, 81. We're still amazed he lasted that long, given the abuse he put his body through with drinking. We figured it acted as a preservative.

We sat for several minutes telling old stories--the same ones we always told--and alternately going up to him to say goodbye, then sitting down, then going up to say goodbye again. It couldn't have been much more than 20 minutes, and my mother had had enough. She was ready to go. She didn't want to see him up close.

Twenty minutes to try to squeeze in a lifetime of goodbyes, of "I love you"s not spoken in life.

It wasn't easy, but we got through it. We went out to lunch afterward, and threw rolled up balls of straw paper at each other. 

It's not a bad coping mechanism.

I'm writing this today, Father's Day, because more than two months have passed since his death, and I finally summoned up the courage to place his obit in the newspaper. It seemed like the right time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

republicans make me nuts

I've watched just about every Republican debate because....well, I don't know. It's torture. I'm trying to keep the boys informed about the dangerous, 13th century views--in my opinion--that the candidates spew. You can almost see the spittle flying out of their mouths when they deflect the topic back to some or another of Obama's shortcomings/abject failures/lack of leadership, blahblahblah. They can't see the world clearly, they're so full of anti-O rage.

They don't have O-faces. They have anti-O faces.

And the problem for me is, that pisses me off. So I end up yelling at the TV during the debates. A lot.

I argue with Romney, debating every false, misguided point he makes, my comments peppered liberally with comments like "shut up you fucking DOUCHE" and "OmiGOD, you're SUCH a fucking DOUCHE, you DOUCHE!" He usually is the recipient of my douche comments.

I reserve "dick" mostly for Newt in my arguments with him. He's a sanctimonious, pompous dick. The term "dick" just seems to fit his milky, bloated visage.

Santorum is tricky. His names vary; I can't quite pin just one on him. He could be "fuckwad" or "dickweed" or "fucking asshole" or "uptight prick". Sometimes he's just a big jerk. His evangelical, dorky personality almost makes me go easy on him. Probably because I don't believe he'll get the nomination. Possibly because I'm still in shock that he has gotten this far in the process, and HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN???

And Paul? He's just entertaining. I go pretty easy on him too, with "moron" and "imbecile". Or "isn't he CUTE?"

I believe watching these things and yelling at the TV is probably hazardous to my health, and my boys think I'm nuts besides. But this process, and my mental and emotional investment in it, is far from over. Go, Team O!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Hello. Let's switch gears here for a moment.

Last week, I got a call from my mother, one I had been expecting for a little while.

"It's time to move your dad," she said.

Of course, she was talking about moving him to what I've taken to calling "the big house," now known as "lockdown." Another name for an Alzheimer's facility.

Back in the late summer, my niece and I helped move my mom and dad from their home in Virginia to an assisted living community in Lewes, Delaware. It's the kind of place plunked down by aliens in the lonely middle of a cornfield, with little homes in various shades of neutral, an apartment building, medical care facility and the main office/dining room/pool/bingo hall/ballroom. In the winter, hundreds and hundreds of snow geese congregate in the field across the road, sending up a flowing white curtain when one bird decides it wants to split.

They got a little house there, and at the time, my dad was ok. In that, yes, he was off his rocker--you can't understand a word he says because it's mostly gibberish--but he was still shuffling, and still smoking cigarettes. I never thought I'd consider smoking cigarettes a sign that his health was basically ok.

He's not smoking anymore.

He had wandered in the night, my mother told me, before the move. He sometimes fell during his travels, somehow managing to escape serious injury. Once in the new house, he continued to wander while my mother dozed (she never got a real good night's sleep knowing he was shuffling around in the dark), sometimes drinking maple syrup and once eating an entire jar of raspberry jam while hiding mugs and cups and trash can lids all over the house.

About a week before the move to lockdown, he had fallen in the garage at night. My mother found him on the other side of the car, half dressed, asleep on the cold floor. It appeared to her that he had gotten into the vinegar.

She couldn't lift him from the floor, because he is dead weight and largely uncooperative, and she made the last of a growing series of calls to the staff to help her.

A few days later, my mom moved him into a room with a gentleman named Ben. We hear Ben is a nice guy.

My niece and I drove down to Lewes that day. We wheeled Dad into the lockdown and to his room. While we stood there talking to the nurses, he used his feet to scoot the wheelchair out the door and down the hall. My first instinct was to go get him, but I remembered. He's in lockdown. He's not going anywhere.

I did catch up to him as he tried to get up from his wheelchair. He had some trouble, and I eased him back into the seat. I spoke to him gently and stroked his back, and told him I was glad he was exploring his new digs.

He looked at me, and for a brief moment, a wave of clarity seemed to wash over his face. His eyes were scared as he looked at me, looking for answers. He looked like he would cry. It seemed like he tried to speak, but couldn't. I wondered how much he knows.

I wonder if he sees his future.

That look is going to stay with me for a long while.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy endings

Wow, I just noticed I've been posting in a larger font. So old people can read, I guess.

So for those watching at home, the colonoscopy wasn't so bad...but the splitting headache that resulted from not eating and caffeine withdrawal for 2 days was horrible. I was pretty goddamn hungry by the end of it! But the actual...elimination process was not nearly as bad as I'd read...probably given that it was stretched out over 2 days. In any event, the actual procedure and recovery was a walk in the park and an excuse to lie there and do nothing for a little while.


I took Jeremy to the Friendly's the other day, kind of a date night thing. He noticed on the back of the menu that Seniors over age 60 could get a free happy ending sundae with their meal.

"Heh heh," he says.


"It says here that old people get a happy ending sundae. Get it? Happy ending?"

I DID get it, but I wasn't sure what he was driving at. To Friendly's, it's a 2-scoop sundae. To me and the rest of the world, a happy ending is what happens at the end of a massage, for an extra fee, of course.

"Uh, what do you mean, 'happy ending'? What's so funny about that?"

"A HAPPY ENDING, Mom. Get it????"

Oh, my boy, do you already know what a happy ending is? You're 13! How could you know this?! I didn't know what this was until about a decade ago! Clearly I haven't shielded you from the seedy side of human sexuality!

"What are you talking about, Jeremy?"

"A HAPPY ENDING! Like, they're over 60. They're old. They could die after eating ice cream! So it'd be like their 'happy ending' sundae," he says, and gives me that eye roll that suggests I know absolutely nothing about anything.

So. A happy ending is like when old people die after eating ice cream. Ok then.

Friday, March 11, 2011

hope everything comes out all right

I said earlier, I no longer really give a shit about turning 50, it's old news now. It's still a milestone; I know women who have thrown themselves parties, or have had parties thrown in their honor, or have thrown themselves into pools to celebrate.

I imagine other women might use the event to get their girly on: get a mani/pedi, some botox injections, a makeover, a new man, maybe some fat sucked out of their thighs.

Sadly, I'm a little too pragmatic and stingy to indulge in many of those things. So instead, this week, I did what perhaps most of us should do at this age: ordered new bifocals, and had a colonoscopy consultation.

The word "colonoscopy" can induce fits of helpless giggles in otherwise mature grownups. I mean, the idea of someone snaking a camera and a polyps-snipper through your bowels and who knows where else is truly riotous. You have to have a sense of humor about it. So I'm pretty sure when I spent the half hour or so talking to Lisa, the nurse practitioner, she had already heard a million times before all the nervous lame jokes I made, ending with a cheerful encore of "well, I hope everything comes out all right!"


My concern is not the procedure itself, scheduled for the end of the month, but the prep. It helps to do your homework before the consultation so you can ask appropriate questions, such as "exactly how much crap can I expect to expel during the prep?" You are warned that it may be "uncomfortable." As in, for 24 hours before the procedure, don't go anywhere not within 5 feet of a toilet, and prepare for perhaps the first time in your adult life to wear a diaper to bed. And tell the kids to spend the night elsewhere, or sit them down and have a serious talk about how all those times you said you didn't fart or poop because you're a lady and ladies don't do were lying.

(Of course, my boys already know I was lying, but up to now, I've worked hard to keep the illusion alive.)

After this is done, there really won't be too much left to be shy about. With my first birth, the ob/gyn made a joke about a dull knife while he's giving me an episiotomy. My tits have been squeezed, prodded and smashed through 15 years of annual mammograms and ultrasounds. And soon I will have a snake up my ass. There's not many more ways I can be physically humiliated. In a weird way, it's kind of liberating.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

more kissing for dummies

Generalization #4: The Pecker. This man—or woman, so I’m told—cannot commit to a real, long, open mouth, soul-stirring kiss. He pecks here and there like a chicken. Maybe he’s not emotionally invested in the other person. Maybe he thinks saliva is icky. Maybe he’s got a plane to catch. Maybe he’s new at this. If he does manage to pry his stingy lips apart and go in for an open-mouther, chances are he will keep his tongue to himself. Which is probably just as well.

Generalization #5: The St. Bernard. We all know one. It’s like kissing your dog after he’s had a long drink from his bowl. There is way too much wetness going on; a little drip out the side of your mouth, that bridge of spit connecting your tongues together when you part lips… when you’re done, your face looks like it’s been bobbing for apples. This is in contrast to Generalization #6: The Deserter, whose kiss is as arid as the Sahara. You know how your mouth gets dry after you smoke weed? That’s this guy: you feel his every taste bud for lack of lubrication, his tongue flipping around like a finger in your mouth, sweeping away seaweed before you are the unfortunate recipient of his mouth-to-mouth.

Generalization #7: The Hard Rock. If you had to kiss a cardboard cutout of a real person, this guy would be that. Every angle in his face is hard. His mouth is hard. He presses it against you at one speed and pressure: hard. His lips are like pencils. Pencils with teeth behind them, which you can also feel, because they, too, are hard. Hard, hard, hard.

No, I'm not done.